Presbyterians Today

NOV-DEC 2018

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28 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay immunizations and other services can be found, in addition to lettuce and canned beans. Zahalka has a dream as well. She wants to open an affordable grocery store in her community. Until that day comes, she focuses on what can be done now, and that is getting con- gregations more active in lobbying small grocery chains to come into rural communities. "We need to convince these busi- nesses that a small community can sustain them," Zahalka said. Why? "Because while our little town may look idyllic, the darkness of hunger resides behind the faces." Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today. She admits that she is the "fresh out of seminary pastor" described in the opening of this story. She also admits to falling in love with the chal- lenges of serving rural churches, even with the long drive to the grocery store. point out, was "just 12 miles away," Harmon says. Harmon didn't give up, though. For two years, he talked about the need in Lake Park, preached and educated his congregation. Finally, the deacons got on board, even though session members still thought a mobile food pantry would fail. This past October marked the church's first anniversary of having the mobile food pantry come to Lake Park. More than 40 families now come to the church on the first Thursday of the month for fresh produce, protein and nonperishable items. And for those who are home- bound, there's no problem, Harmon says. "We call our homebound folks and take their orders and deliver what they need," Harmon said. While the mobile food pantry has been a dream come true for the pastor, he is not stopping there. Harmon has visions of offering not just food each month, but a one-stop social service location where heating assistance, those in his church didn't think hunger was an issue because the nearest food bank, they would RURAL HUNGER at a GLANCE 2.4 million rural households face hunger 3/4 of the counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are in rural areas 86% of the counties with the highest rates of child food insecurity are rural Source: Feeding America FOOD INSECURITY AND THE FARM BILL BY ANDREW KANG BARTLETT The last Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years, expired on Sept. 30, 2018. While SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) and crop support payments continue, certain important programs were put on hold. Since then, there have been no new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to support farmer-to-eater community food projects, rural micro-enterprise development and farmers of color. The USDA also has not been accepting conservation program applications, making environmental land use planning dif- ficult or impossible. Passage of the Farm Bill has been challenging due to highly divergent House- and Senate-passed bills. SNAP rules are one area of disagreement. SNAP is a very successful antipov- erty program, which lifted 1.5 million children out of poverty in 2016 (according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau Survey), and two-thirds of SNAP funding goes directly to children and families. Nevertheless, the House Farm Bill calls for sharp cuts, restricted eligibility and harsher work requirements to SNAP and more than $20 billion in benefit cuts over 10 years. The bipartisan Senate bill maintains SNAP funding and reduces barriers to enrollment. The Presbyterian Hunger Program's first of nine principles of a faithful Farm Bill in the Eater's Guide to the Farm Bill is to "protect and strengthen programs that reduce hunger and improve nutrition in the United States." To learn more, go to presbyterianmission.org/food-faith/farmbill. You can also read the Hunger Program's Food & Faith blog at presbyterianmission.org/food-faith. Andrew Kang Bartlett is an associate for national hunger concerns at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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